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2011 GMC Acadia Denali Review & Test Drive

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Filed under Automotive, Featured, GMC, SUV, Test Drives


A new premium Denali model joins the GMC Acadia lineup for 2011, adding a new dimension of luxury and exclusivity to this popular crossover.  It brings the distinctive Denali design elements, including a chrome honeycomb grille and monochromatic exterior color cues, along with exclusive fascias, high-intensity discharge headlamps and unique, luxury interior features.

The GMC Denali models have come to stand for luxury and exclusivity, and that’s just what customers will get in the new Acadia Denali.  The decision to develop an Acadia Denali was made quickly with the new GM in response to custom and dealer demand for a Denali version ever since the launch and success of the Acadia.  The Acadia continues to win over customers in a still-recovering market with sales up nearly 45% in the first quarter of 2010, making it second in brand sales to only the broad Sierra range of trucks.

Acadia’s body-frame integral structure enables lower entry/exit for passenger making it similar to a mid-size sedan.  Despite the vehicle’s SUV-like front-end height, the front door step-in height is only 18.9 inches; the rear door step-in height is 19.8 inches.

All Acadia models offer three rows of seating that can be configured for seven or eight passengers, regardless of the trim level.  The seating configurations include two front buckets seats, a 60/40-split second-row bench (three passengers) or two second-row captain’s chairs, and a 60/40-split third-row bench seat.

Entry to the second-and third-row seats is easy with very wide rear doors and GM’s exclusive Smart Slide second-row seat feature that is standard on all Acadia models.  The second-row seat cushion flips up while the seatback slides forward, effectively compressing the space occupied by the seat with the pull of a lever.  The Smart Slide system also allows the second row to be positioned fore/aft.  When adjusted rearward, the second-row seat provides more legroom for taller passengers; when adjust forward, it provides more storage space or additional legroom for third-row passengers.  Seating space is sufficient for adults in all positions.  Access to the third-row seat also is aided by Acadia’s rear door width, which is wider than the doors of most other SUV’s.  The vehicle’s long wheelbase (118.9 inches) also enables greater accessibility.  The rear door opening was maximized by reducing the space between the rear door and the leading edge of the door opening.  Engineers were able to maximize the opening space while providing optimal chassis integrity for maximum occupant protection.

Along with comfort and ease of entry, Acadia’s interior offers generous cargo room, including 115.9 cu.ft. when the second-and third-row seats are folded flat and the cargo management removed.  Additional storage is also available in a covered rear cargo convenience center behind the third row that allows items to be stored out of sight beneath the rear cargo floor.

Like all Acadia models, the Denali is powered by a 3.6 liter, all-aluminum, DOHC, VVT V6 engine that uses gasoline direct injection technology to optimize performance and fuel economy.  It generates 288hp at 6,300rpm and 270lb.ft. of torque at 3,400rpm.  That is plenty of power at launch and to easily cruise on the highway with seven or eight passengers.  The engine is paired with Acadia’s fuel-saving six-speed automatic transmission to help give FWD models an EPA-estimated 24mpg/highway and 17mpg/city rating.  The Acadia is also capable of towing up to 5,200lbs. when properly equipped.

The new 2011 Acadia Denali is available in FWD (front-wheel drive) and AWD (all-wheel drive) models, as well as seven-and eight-passenger seating configurations.  It stands out with its signature Denali design cues, highlighted by the monochromatic exterior and chrome honeycomb grille.  It also wears a number of specific exterior design cues including unique lower front and rear fascias, HID headlamps, foglamps, body-color lower cladding and rocker moldings, chrome door handles, full-length thin chrome strip on the doors and rear step-up bumper, body-color rear fascia and fender flares, unique bodyside moldings with chrome accents and Denali badges, dual chrome 4 inch exhaust tips, 20X7.5 inch two-tone chrome-clad wheels wrapped with 255/55R20 inch all-season radial tires.  It is offered in five exterior colors: Quicksilver Metallic, Summit White, Carbon Black, Red Jewel Tintcoat, and White Diamond Tricoat that I tested.

All of the luxury and refinement that are hallmarks of the Denali line are found in Acadia Denali-exclusive design, comfort and convenience that will make you reluctant to leave the cabin include features such as a leather-wrapped/tilt/telescoping steering wheel with mahogany wood inserts and controls for the audio system, cruise control and Bluetooth telephone communications, elegant dark wood grain finish on the instrument panel, center stack and door trim, chrome shifter gate with leather/mahogany/chrome stick shifter, perforated leather 8-way/fully adjustable driver’s bucket seat/6-way adjustable front passenger seat/lumbar control with matching leather door panel trim, heated and cooled driver and front passenger bucket seats, storage bin on the dashboard ledge, enhanced accent lighting in the footwells, premium acoustics-laminated glass and liquid applied sound deadeners, dual SkyScape sunroof system wit sliding front sunroof and fix rear section, head’s-up display for added convenience and safety, a tri-zone automatic climate control system, optional navigation system including XM NavTraffic, OnStar 9.0, an optional rear seat DVD entertainment system with roof-mounted flip-down screen, a premium audio system with USB port and Bose 10 speaker sound system, XM satellite radio, a reaview camera system, and a two-person driver’s seat memory setting with automatic exit/entry automatic power movement.

Acadia Denali rides on a long 118.9 inch wheelbase and a wide 67.28 front/rear tracks -a combination that lowers the center of gravity and enables smooth, stabile ride and handling.  Sharp reflexes are also supported by independent front and rear suspension systems.  The front suspension features a MacPherson coil-over strut design with direct acting stabilizer bar, aluminum knuckles and a full perimeter isolated mounting point cradle to help reduce noise and vibration.  The rear suspension uses a compact, state-of-the-art linked ‘H’ design coil springs, twin-tube gas-charged shocks, stabilizer bar that uses an isolated mounting system to also reduce noise and vibration transmitted to the passenger compartment.  The design enables the handling prowess that comes with an independent suspension, but with minimum floor pan intrusion-a feature that helps the Acadia Denali offer generous passenger and cargo space.

Acadia Denali features standard power-assisted rack & pinion steering with variable-effort steering for precise and quick response to your inputs.  Enhancing your control on the road include StabiliTrak electronic stability control system with rollover mitigation technology, traction control, tire pressure monitoring system and four-wheel power-assisted ABS disc brakes.  These powerful brakes measure 12.8 inches up front that are clamped with dual-piston calipers and 13 inches in the rear that are clamped with single-piston calipers.  All for disc are vented to fade free braking power and ABS for control during severe braking maneuvers and when braking on wet or slick pavement.

Acadia Denali’s available intelligent AWD system enhances dry-road handling and provides increased traction on wet, snow and ice-covered roads.  It actively manages the torque distribution between the front and rear axles, based on factors such as wheel speed, throttle and surface conditions.  There is no driver intervention; the system automatically decides how much torque to apply and it automatically delivers torque to wheels that have the best traction.  The AWD system’s tuning is revised to provide more rear torque bias during certain driving conditions.

Standard equipment not mentioned above includes remote keyless entry, theft deterrent system, longitudinal roof rails, power liftgate, outside heated/power-folding/turn signal mirrors, trailering package, rear spoiler, rear seat audio controls, self-dimming reaview mirror, universal home remote, grab handles on the front passenger A-pillar and rear door frame, power windows with driver’s side express up/down, power door locks, dual map lamps, cargo light, second-row reading lights, easy to see and understand instrument cluster and center stack, a center console with dual cupholders/sliding lid storage compartment and storage bin with leather padded top, variable-speed rain-sensing wipers/washers, rear wiper/washer/defogger, storage slots in each door, map pockets behind both front bucket seats, chrome door handles, aluminum door kick plates with lighted Denali plates up front, chrome bezels around each front dashboard air-duct, thick-cut pile carpeting with front and rear floor mats.

Standard safety features include airbags-dual frontal/head curtain side/front side impact, passenger sensing system, LATCH system for child seats, 3-point safety belts for all seating places with front load limiters/pretensioners, front/rear crush zones, steel beams in each door an OnStar 9.0 directions & connections with automatic crash response and turn-by-turn navigation.

Just like I said before, the new Acadia Denali brings distinctive design elements and unique interior features that luxury minded consumers are seeking to differentiate their crossover sport utility from the growing field and the new Acadia Denali delivers on all counts.  The base price for a new 2011 GMC Acadia Denali FWD starts at $43,220 and the loaded Denali that I tested was priced at $47,350.00.  Well worth the price.



  • Price: Base GMC Acadia $32,000  As-Tested GMC Acadia Denali $47,350
  • Total length: 201.1in.
  • Total width: 78.9in.
  • Total height: 72.8in. with roof rails
  • Turning circle: 40.4ft.
  • Cargo volume: 116-2nd/3rd row folded, 68.8-3rd row folded, 24.1cu.ft. behind 3rd row
  • Gas tank: 22 gallons
  • Headroom: f/m/r-40.4/39.3/38.4in.
  • Legroom: f/m/r-41.3/36.9/33.2in.
  • Curb weight: FWD-4,720/AWD-4,925lbs.
  • EPA fuel economy: FWD-17mpg/city, 24mpg/highway, AWD-16mpg/city, 23mpg/highway

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